Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10.10.10: One Warm [Race] Day

Finally, after months of long runs, short runs, cross training, stretching, foam rollers, loads of laundry, countless bottles of water, gatorade, packets of gu and hours of sleep, the day has come - Race Day.

Goodbye taper madness. I'm standing in the corral, ready to run the 2010 Chicago Marathon!

With the exception of the ankle sprain in week 16, training was a success, so I guess I'm ready.

What's the one thing you can't control on race day? Weather.

Sunday morning was warm, even as we stood in the corral waiting to start.

My training group, for the most part, started together at 7:53. For the first 10 to 12 miles, a small group of us operated like clockwork and according to our plan - slightly slower than a 10:30, consistent miles. The north side of the race is the fun part. Your body's well rested and ready to go. There are a ton of spectators and great sideline entertainment [Hello Boystown Cheerleaders!].

It was shortly after the half marathon mark [which I checked my watch to see we had done in 2:24] that the well laid plans started to unravel. Not due to anyone's fitness level or desire, but rather due to the heat. It was now 80 degrees, and we still had a half marathon to run.

In the next few miles we'd broken in to pairs. Traveling out west towards the United Center is tough mentally. As you're running west, you can look a block south to see everyone in front of you traveling back east.

Carrie and I pushed through mile 19 together, but it was getting really tough. The sun was draining us. In the later teen miles, we took full advantage of walking through the aide stations and using the misters.

As we came up to mile 20, I needed to use the restroom and Carrie wanted to push on. I wished her luck and told her to go ahead - I would have Kim jumping in with me at 21.

Getting from 20 to 21.5 was a journey. I passed a bank's sign in Pilsen that read 87 degrees in that stretch.

Then Kim picked me out of the crowd (as she always does). She jumped in, asked if I needed anything, then called Brian. Brian jumped in with us shortly thereafter for a short while. It was so nice to have people talking to me through that part of the race!

The remaining miles few miles were the longest, hottest and toughest. This is where the race becomes a mental race - almost every muscle in your body hurts. Your body wants to stop [to at least some degree] but mentally you know you're strong enough to get to the end. So you keep pushing. You find sources of inspiration to keep you moving forward. Sometimes you have a friend besides you saying things like 'You look great. You're doing a great job.' Even though you may feel defeated at that moment.

I was lucky enough to have Kim there.

Soon we reached a sign that read 'One More Mile.' Kim said that there was no walking from this point on. I agreed with her - I needed to finish strong - even though Michigan Avenue seemed to be the longest street in the world that day.

Kim stayed with me until the corner of Roosevelt and Michigan. She ran along the other side of the the bridge and spoke words of encouragement as I used my arms to work my way up the hill. At the top of the hill was my Mom and Dave cheering me on. The next thing I knew, we were turning the corner on to Columbus to the finish line.

Crossing the finish line of a marathon is a one-of-a-kind experience. Even if you have crossed a marathon's finish line before. Some people are overcome with emotions. Others just want to grab their free beer and take off their shoes.

I have completed my third marathon. I have run the same course three times, and each time, I have had a completely unique experience. I have loved each year. The feeling never get old.

Will I do another marathon? Let's just say there was talk of another marathon between Kim and I during mile 24.

Yes, we're all crazy.

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